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Independent Review of Scottish Government International Development Fund Projects Focused on Malawi

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Executive Summary

1. The main purpose of this research was to review the Scottish Government's International Development Fund projects that were funded through the 4 thematic priority areas of the policy with a view to informing the new international development policy, its future development and programme management.

2. A total of 39 projects were reviewed and these project-level assessments primarily used documents and evidence submitted to the Scottish Government as part of the ongoing monitoring and evaluation process of the International Development Fund. This was supplemented with telephone interviews with project leaders in Scotland.

3. The review included a field visit to meet with Malawi project personnel and project beneficiaries and a sample of projects were visited to validate the project performance assessments. The 4 Malawian strand leaders from the Government of Malawi were also interviewed as part of the field visit.

4. The examples of good practice and lessons gathered through the review are presented in 4 thematic areas: advocacy and leverage; partnerships; project design; and project modality. As part of this, case study projects were selected in order to evidence and illustrate the findings and used a criteria based on scope and scale; impact; innovation; and good practice.

5. All of the projects reviewed demonstrated valuable lessons of relevance for future projects and grant applicants and their work helped draw out many key findings. In particular, the inception phase was critical to IDF project success and such projects were able to demonstrate:

  • A strong technical expertise of the Scottish partner and a strong regional knowledge of the Malawian partners with inputs encouraged from both during inception and implementation phases.
  • They had undertaken comprehensive needs analysis that was clearly informed by the infrastructure available in Malawi.

6. One of the positive outcomes highlighted through the process of the review was around advocacy. Across the IDF, there was evidence of projects bringing focus and attention to their area of work which, in turn, helped raise awareness amongst decision-makers and levered support from other parties. Advocacy was not a specific funding criteria set by the IDF and so could be thought of as a positive, unintended benefit.

7 Strong networking also emerged as a key area through which greater efficiencies could be achieved in the future. IDF projects, given their scope and scale, are well placed to maximise networking and collaboration opportunities in order to link in with wider programmes of work and target resources around shared agendas.

8. The review assessed the projects against the Millennium Development Goals ( MDGs) and concluded that the Scottish funding is aligned with the declared aim of supporting the MDGs. Furthermore, the balance across the 4 thematic strands of the policy matches the relative priorities for funding allocation decided upon by the Malawi Government in their Growth and Development Strategy ( MGDS) for 2006
to 2011.

9. In relation to monitoring and evaluation ( M&E), the review highlights the need to closely connect M&E systems to project requirements in order to limit any reporting burden. Equally, the M&E systems should reflect the size and scale of the IDF and be able to make evidence informed connections between the project and programme level.

10. The review considered possible options for future M&E systems to take account of the new International Development policy's objectives. Examples are used to show how an evaluation framework could evaluate and assess the IDF's impact drawing on monitoring processes and indicators.

11. Overall, the review found that projects funded through the IDF have been able to deliver real benefits on the ground when planned and targeted effectively and the many case studies and examples through this report help to show that. Looking ahead and given the new policy focus, there is an opportunity for future projects to establish networks and engage with different partners and groups to further enable the IDF to punch above its weight.